Glial cells are the backing singers of the brain; essential for a perfect performance, but rarely given the credit they deserve. Neurons, frantically firing information from place to place, get all the glory but account for less than half of the brain’s volume. Glial cells provide support and insulation around neurons, but have had far less attention from researchers. To learn more about their role in early development, a team looked at a fruit fly’s visual system. For the system (pictured, with the retina, top, linking to the brain’s optic lobe, below) to develop, neuron growth in different areas must be perfectly balanced. Researchers found that this careful coordination relies on signals couriered by glial cells that ensure the right types of neurons develop in the right time and place (pink). And if this mechanism is present in adult cells, it could have implications for new stem-cell therapy development.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.